For the last week or so Arthur had stayed with his mother. He couldn't really walk about, he certainly couldn't drive and she had him captive. Much to her delight, he thought. She made none of the usual hints about finding a nice girl, settling down, buying a grown up car, instead she seemed to be enjoying his dependence; something that appeared to come with Uther Pendragon as an optional extra.
"They are very weird, it's official," Arthur told Merlin as they sat in Merlin's room in the hospital. Arthur sat in the window seat, sketching the landscape in the hope it might inspire Merlin to draw. He hadn't even hinted at such at thing since they had been rescued. It seemed to be that in Merlin's mind he had done what he needed to do, and he was not required for anything else.
"It's like I am back in school again. I'm amazed my mother hasn't imposed a curfew. Not that I have actually been anywhere. It's made me realise that my social life it lacking a bit. I mean, I do have friends, but I don't really go out very often. Do you want to draw something, or are you not bothered now. I wish you would, I'd like to know that I didn't break you. Have I?"
Merlin's hands didn't respond to the pressure of the notepad and pencil as Arthur tried to press them into Merlin's hands. In the end Arthur gave up, Merlin hadn't shown any significant change in his behaviour. He was the same as the rest of them knew him, but he had only ever drawn anything for Arthur. And even Arthur now couldn't seem to persuade him.
"Arthur, Gaius is expecting you," Elena said, bouncing into the room. The bouncing seemed to cease as she looked at what Arthur was trying to do. "No joy?"
"He doesn't seem to want to. Are you going to stay with him?"
"Course," Elena said.
Arthur put the pad and pencil down slowly getting up. He didn't need the crutches but his knee still felt a little sore. Elena tensed, looking ready to catch him if he fell.
"I'm fine," Arthur told him, limping out of the room. Elena still stayed ready, just in case. Arthur paused in the doorway, turning back to Merlin.
"I won't be long Merlin."
He hobbled slowly down the corridor and out through the patient wing towards the back rooms where his boss' office was. At least he might be able to find out what was going on, and whether or not he would ever be reinstated. So far it was just a temporary move, while the hospital board waited for the fuss to die down. Nor did they want one of their psychiatrists suffering from emotional trauma while he worked, or so they said.
He rapped his knuckles against Gaius' open door. He looked up at peered at Arthur over the top of his glasses, smiling at him. Arthur limped in.
"How is the knee?"
"The swelling is down and it hurts less," Arthur said as he lowered himself into the chair opposite his boss. He took a moment to get comfortable, easing his leg into a relaxed and comfortable position. As he settled Lancelot wandered through the door with a tray holding a coffee pot and two cups. He placed it on the desk.
"Hi Arthur, how are you?"
"Okay," Arthur said. "Fairly bored though."
"Well, let's hope you get back soon," Lancelot said, taking the hint as Gaius gave him a steady glare. He dropped a hand onto Arthur's shoulder and went out of the room, closing the door behind him. Arthur turned, it hadn't even occurred to him, Gaius never shut the door. Turning back Arthur said.
"That seems ominous."
"It's not," Gaius said concentrating on pouring out coffee.
"I hope you're not about to fire me," Arthur said, sounding as if he really meant that. As he said it he realised he really did mean it. He always knew he had liked his job, and had liked working in the hospital, as he felt now, teetering on the brink of perhaps having it taken away from him.
"No, I am not. I refuse to do that. You are good at what you do, what the board are worried about is rushing you back into work. These were some of the conditions when you were cautioned. Arthur you have to abide by them."
"I know, I know. I saw Freya in the shopping centre and practically had to cut her dead in case that could be considered out of the conditions. My mother went round to apologise for me."
"Freya was fine, Nimueh saw her on Tuesday and got that assurance. You cannot deal with any of your patients, except Merlin. You can still visit him."
"That's for him not me, isn't it."
"Yes, I made them consider Merlin's welfare, but they also care about yours. I don't think that a conditional caution is such a bad thing. I think you need to be settled and happy before you start work again. The hospital board are fine with that."
"What happens when you think I'm better?"
Then I will speak to them regarding your return. And no, you won't be able to get round me," Gaius warned him. "That is the reason I am taking on some of the cases, to help Nimueh with the work load. It's easier now Vivian had moved to an outpatient status. She seems to be moving on well now she's involved with that Leon chap that works with your father."
"How's her father taking it?"
"Well, enough we think. He can't argue with someone who takes his daughter out to lunch as regularly as he does."
Arthur grinned. "He also got her a job in the press department, as a researcher. My father told me."
"They did seem very impressed with her research skills."
"Without her they wouldn't have found the last boy. Unfortunately not alive."
"At least the boy's parents have some closure. From what the police now believe there are possibly more, and until they follow up the leads they keep finding there are parents who still have no idea what might have happened," Gaius said. "Did Merlin respond today?"
Arthur shook his head. "No, I think I really did some damage to him."
"You don't know that. I arranged for another scan, just to check if there had been any significant change, especially since Nimueh had shed an entirely different perspective on it. As far as I can tell his brain functions are exactly the same as they were prior to that. Which means more than likely you didn't do anything to him."
"I don't know which is worse," Arthur said glumly. "Because that sort of indicates that he isn't going to recover."
"Stop making assumptions."
"It is the most logical conclusion though, isn't it?"
Gaius didn't answer directly; instead he looked down and shuffled the papers on his desk about, clearing some out of the way and opening a notepad. The lack of response was enough of an answer in Arthur's mind. But he didn't understand why Merlin now refused to even draw for him.
"How are you sleeping now?" Gaius asked, changing the subject.
"Better, I'm still having the odd nightmare but I'm trying not to use the sleeping pills. I only do if I have to."
"Good and you feel all right, no panic attacks or adverse reactions?"
"None, I'm never going to say I'm sorry for what I did either. Although I wouldn't say that to just anyone."
"How are you coping with the press?"
Arthur shrugged. "It's not too bad. Dad said I just probably need to wait for them to get bored. Something else will come up to divert their attention soon enough. Everyone seems to be on my side."
"That does not make killing people the answer."
"I wouldn't ordinarily argue with you. I've dealt with people who had thought that. But all things considered, I don't think there was anything else I could have done."
"Did they really explain what they were doing? You haven't really been very clear on that."
"Morgause said something about me; that I was perfect for what she wanted. She used the word 'empathic'."
"The ability to psychically pick up on people's emotions. You do rather have an innate ability to read people's mood and respond accordingly. And you had no problems establishing a connection with Merlin."
"None, he even spoke."
"When was this?"
"Facing Morgause. He didn't physically do it himself, I felt something, something of Merlin pass through me. He spoke using me."
"What did he say?"
"You're not taking Arthur from me," Arthur repeated the words. "I heard myself say it, but it wasn't me saying it, if you understand what I mean."
"I think so."
"He helped me as well, I felt someone, something, at the time, guiding me when I fought Cenred. I didn't really think about it at the time, but in hindsight, and it was just after Merlin spoke that I stabbed Morgause. I wasn't really thinking about killing her, I just wanted to protect Merlin."
"You didn't tell the police this did you?"
Arthur shook his head. "No, I didn't want them involving Merlin, and bringing up all the psychic stuff. The scene of crime mob would have found my prints all over the metal and the wooden block I used. Saying anything more seemed pointless. They could have even assumed I was just diverting the blame. It was better that I took it all."
"Considering some of the previous evidence Arthur, it might not have been considered all that bizarre."
"I didn't want Merlin dragged into it. I had enough time to think that perhaps it was easier this way. Merlin's had quite enough."
"Do you think though, Arthur, that it might have been Merlin and not you acting against Morgause?"
Arthur's jaw tensed. "I wanted to kill her. I remember being frightened, when it came to Cenred, when we fought. But I'd met him before, and he was intimidating," Arthur confessed with a huff. "And when he touched me..."
Arthur tailed off with a shudder.
"That seemed more frightening than dealing with Morgause?" Gaius asked.
"A little. More than a little. I worried that he could easily overpower me, I didn't worry so much about her, I just felt that..." Arthur bit down on his lip, seriously considering what he meant. "It didn't seem an issue, it was just what I needed to do."
"You did that after Merlin used you to speak. It occurs to me killing Morgause was not you. That could have been Merlin alone, still in control of you."
"Merlin didn't do anything."
"Yet you just said that he spoke through you, and that perhaps he helped you though the fights. What makes you think that anyway?"
"I think he can move things as well as pass thoughts on. We know he can draw but silly things, Kilgharrah sort of shifting position, that reporter's camera slamming against the bedpost. Just silly things that we didn't really take as anything seriously. He could see over distances, so why couldn't he move objects close by."
"Why not indeed? Until we get something clear on that then I would say you did the right thing by keeping that to yourself. The CPS gave you a conditional caution on the evidence that you gave and from what they found on the scene. You had clearly fought with Cenred, the only sticking point was Morgause, because she didn't fight on a physical level."
"And you think Merlin used me to defeat her."
"I don't see why not considering what you are saying. And then take it a step further. You have done what you needed to do and you broke the connection between him and Morgause."
"You don't need to remind me of that."
"But you also said, she wanted you. Merlin is stronger, more unusual than any of the other boys. He was connected to that woman, and someone that wanted you. So much so that she came out of hiding to get you. At least we found out how that happened."
Arthur gave a short, humourless laugh. "One of the simplest explanations in the world."
After much advice seeking he had broken the habit of a lifetime. He felt a little self-conscious walking into the police station and saying.
"I want to speak to Uther Pendragon."
The officer who had come to speak to him regarded him with some surprise but eventually asked.
"And it's regarding?"
"I'm not telling you, but I know he'll want to hear it."
He had been kept in an uncomfortable room, although someone had thought to bring him a coffee, until a good looking man with annoyingly well groomed hair came in to talk to him.
"Hi, I'm Gwaine. You have some information. Mr..."
"I do, but I want to speak to DCS Pendragon. It's regarding his son Arthur. I know how he was kidnapped."
"We can't contact DCS Pendragon but bear with us," Gwaine said. He went to the door and put his head out. "Call Bayard will you, Morgana! By the sound of it we need him to follow this up!"
Gwaine shut the door and turned back, coming to sit down opposite him.
"DCS Pendragon has been removed from certain aspects of the case, since Arthur is his son. Those parts have been passed onto DCI Bayard, we'll let him know. He's tying up a few loose ends for us and should be with us shortly. I can start a formal interview if you wish to make any comments. Or I can get you some water, or tea... or anything..."
"Tea, thank you." He regarded the coffee in his mug with distaste. "I hate coffee."
"This is part of a serious investigation, so we do need to record it," Bayard said.
"That's fine," he said.
"You have some information about Arthur Pendragon."
"I think I... I walked past the car park and saw them. He looked really spaced out, she was trying to get him into a car, a big jeep thing. It looked a bit silly for someone her size. I went over and she asked me for help."
"In what way?" Bayard asked.
"She said her brother had had some sort of fit. He looked almost unconscious, and she said she had to take him home."
"Can you confirm the identities of the two people? For the tape I am showing a series of photographs," Bayard said, shuffling the photographs about.
"Her, she was the one, and he was the bloke."
"The interviewee has picked out Arthur Pendragon and the woman known as Morgause. Did she ask you for help?"
"No, I saw her struggling and went over, I though it was my good deed for the day."
"She claimed the victim was suffering from a fit?"
"Yes, she said it came on suddenly and he had called her for help. She said he was her brother, they both had blond hair and I... I didn't think anything of it... I didn't think that he was being kidnapped! She had a jeep with her, it was parked next to his car. When I said I could help she just asked for it putting him into the backseat. She could manage from there, lock his car up and let other family members know. I got the impression she was used to dealing with it, that it wasn't the first time it had happened to him."
"Did you stay to help her shut the car up? Did you see her lock the door of the blue VW Beetle?"
"No, she said she would do it, and she went as if to do so, checking around the car. I went away I just thought, she didn't really want that much help. I was trying to be helpful, now I find that I might be doing just the opposite. You don't think that if you go over to help that you assume that there is a kidnap or any sort of crime going on. If people find that out, no one in the world will ever perform a good deed."
"Quite true," Bayard sighed. "But you did one today. I need you just to wait to sign some paperwork and make sure we have your details, we may need to call you back just for clarification."
"I won't be charged with anything will I? I'm not an accessory to the crime or anything am I?"
"No, you've given us a good lead, and your information has been very helpful."
"That's good to know. I only wanted to help."
"It validated the kidnap. It might be a way that they took several of the boys. Morgause looking harmless, with someone looking ill or injured. If people think they are helping they are not likely to go into a background check."
Arthur clenched his teeth. "It could have happened this way, at least with the two boys Morgause took herself."
"And with you, a sister struggling with her brother, who she claimed had suffered some kind of fit. She had to wait for the right person to come along."
"Not necessarily Gaius, she can manipulate emotions, and maybe not just her own. If I had some sense left I would have wanted help. Merlin used me, she could have too."
"In which case we can walk into a world of endless speculation. I don't think you should allow your mind to go there. In this case, you need to deal with the reality of what you have done, and what is happening now. To go into any further kind of speculation, it will tear you apart Arthur. You'll spend your time looking for an answer that you cannot find."
"But if that's what might have happened to others?"
"The police are aware of it. It is not your job Arthur, and you will not get any closure from pursuing it. Your father's team can take that on board, you can't do that part of it. Arthur, you will drive yourself insane if you try, and that is not what I am going to let you do."
Arthur locked his right hand around his left wrist, his hand tightening and his hand started to ache under the pressure.
"Arthur, are you still having the nightmares?" Gaius asked returning to the original subject. Arthur jerked his head up.
"I told you I wasn't taking the sleeping pills as much, that it wasn't so bad."
"I never asked if it was bad or good, I just asked if you were still having the nightmares."
"Sometimes, and it's still not over killing anyone. I think I do that sometimes, but I know I'm dreaming, or at least I know it's not entirely real. The worst ones are when I can't reach Merlin, I'm trying to find him and he's just not there."
"How do you mean not there? What is the dream about? Is it clear?"
Arthur shrugged. "Sometimes it's very clear. I'm in the building, or something like it, and I'm looking for him. I keep thinking I see him or know where he is and when I get there, he's not there. In others I'm so close, but I can't seem to get hold of him. It's as if he's insubstantial."
"That seems quite close to how you are feeling now," Gaius said. "It's praying on your mind that you cannot reach him, and he's not responding to you."
"I guess, it's frustrating. I just wish I could get one sign, even the smallest of things to tell me that he's still there."
"Give it time Arthur. It's the same thing you need. You should know that."
Arthur huffed. "I know all the advice, I hate having to take it."
"Psychiatrist heal thyself," Gaius murmured
Arthur felt something little short of relief when he felt well enough to drive his own car. That didn't stop either of his extremely strangely behaved parents from fussing over him. And finally, three weeks later, although he still couldn't deal with any patients, he was allowed to at least work again. Gaius had enough admin to deal with that Arthur could help pick up the slack. A government scandal had knocked Arthur and Merlin's story off the front page. The press couldn't really get any more mileage from it, everything had gone back to normal, Arthur still hailed as something of a hero. He didn't feel like one, because of Merlin, and the way he had been since the incident, Arthur felt that he had somehow failed.
In a session with Gaius he had half voice concerns that it was Morgause who had been controlling Merlin, but she wouldn't have helped him the way Merlin had. Everyone was slowly beginning to accept that perhaps Merlin was too far gone, and always had been, to recover.
Everyone except Arthur. His stubborn Pendragon side refused to give into that, consciously or sub-consciously. Even in his dreams he tried fighting to get through to Merlin, although he couldn't always control it, sometimes if he was rousing and knew he was dreaming he tried to manipulate what he was seeing. The only problem was he woke before he really got anywhere.
His car gave a little jerk as his foot slipped, the sudden ringing of his phone making him jump. It lay on the passenger seat next to him. Arthur gave it a vague glance and then looked back to the road, briefly glancing in his rear view mirror. Six cars were trundling along the road behind him, and on the slightly narrow road Arthur could not risk pulling over. Certainly not since the Indian summer they had been blessed with had turned into a very dismal October. Although the rain had temporarily let up people were still driving carefully on the roads.
There was a little area were you could pull in on a bend, but Arthur was only five minutes from the hospital, he could at least wait until then. It didn't even occur to him to answer it as he drove, both his father and his mother had drilled into him what a bad idea that was.
It was something Arthur agreed with, so he couldn't, on some bizarre principle that floated around in his mind, answer it.
The temptation grew since, as he pulled into the driveway of the hospital, it shrilled again. Arthur swung into his space, parking carefully before turning off the engine and he gathered up his lunchbox and his now quiet phone before getting out of the car. He winced as his knee ached slightly, still not entirely happy about the pressure of driving but he was not about to let on to anyone about that. For the short while he had been laid up he had missed the independence of his little car, which he was not swapping for anything.
As he hobbled to the door, carefully checking that no one could see him while he loosened up his knee joint, he noted Hunith's car already parked in a visitor space. Arthur knew she had planned to visit that morning, wanting to discuss the possibility of perhaps in the long term moving Merlin back home, for her to care for. Arthur hadn't commented at the time, feeling that perhaps even she was giving up on her son's recovery. Or maybe she was just more accepting of the situation than he was.
Pressing the button on his phone he rang through to pick up the messages as he wandered through the doorway. He frowned as he looked around, no one sat at the reception desk, and it seemed rather quiet, usually by now people were moving around. Arthur picked up the pen, signing into the visitors book, as he was required to do for the time being, while he listened to the first message.
"It's Bayard. I just thought I would update you, as we can now wrap up the case, almost. We followed up from what the witness to your kidnapping said regarding the two boys Morgause took. It would appear her damsel in distress ploy worked more than once. Quite effectively."
And not just that, Arthur thought to himself, she had the ability to twist people's emotions, to use them as she wanted, siphoning off what she needed. No doubt that was part of it too, but Bayard didn't need to know that. He could happily tie off the loose ends as required.
"Your father will probably tell you," Bayard's voice continued as Arthur made his way upstairs to search out Merlin, and Hunith. "But the investigation will stay open somewhat, since we cannot rule out the possibility of further victims. There are some anomalous DNA samples from various crime scenes but unless we learn something very concrete I doubt that will ever be laid entirely to rest."
Arthur gritted his teeth, not really hearing the rest of the message as Bayard gave some general enquires about Arthur's health before signing off. Arthur headed into the residential area as he fiddled with his phone to pick up the second message, which appeared as he heard the beginning, to come from Lancelot.
Whatever Lancelot said Arthur didn't hear, although the tone sounded urgent. Instead he frowned as he heard the sound of several voices coming from, he eventually realised, Merlin's room. Arthur turned the phone off and increased his speed as he walked towards the room. Four steps from the threshold he almost recoiled as the volume increased and a figure barrelled out of the door, slamming straight into Arthur. Arthur inhaled sharply and the figure recoiled. They would have pulled away but Arthur dropped his phone, letting it thud onto the carpet - which really needed replacing, but no one had thought to get around to it - and he reached out to grab them.
His hand locked around a wrist, by instinct he reached for that, gripping gently but not allowing them to get away. He pulled them back close and rubbing the inside of the slim arm he felt the tension and then relaxation of the muscles. He looked into a pair of blue eyes, crystal clear in clarity and focusing distinctly on his face.
Arthur's breath caught in his throat as he met the gaze, staring in shock as they locked eyes for the first time.
"Arthur." The voice low, shocked but there was a flicker of a smile on his lips. At the tone Arthur felt his knees turn to jelly, and he changed his grip, sliding his hand down to lace his fingers with those of someone he knew so well, speaking in shock as he exhaled.
Alright it's the conclusion of this story, which has always been the point I would end it, but nobody kill me just yet! I will write a sequel. My plan is to finish, or at least get further along, with some other stories before I start it, but this is me sooo... might happen sooner than that, since I already know where I plan to go with this...